Say Nothing to the Cops: Ever

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Recently by Eric Peters: One Memory of 911      

Say nothing… nothing!

To cops, ever.

Anything you say can and will be held against you. Remember that?

You ought to.

Even if you haven’t been formally arrested (merely “detained,” as in the case of a traffic stop) it does you no good and very possibly much harm to give any information to the cop beyond the simple minimums of name and perhaps address, as required by law. Nothing more, because anything more will simply give the cop information – information he can and will use against you, both at curbside and later on, in court.

This is his job. Do not forget it.

He is not there to “help” you. He is not a good Samaritan. You are not having a chat with a friend. You have been detained because the cop believes you have violated some statute or other – and he is investigating you. He is trained to elicit confessions of guilt, which can and will be used against you. Depend upon it.

For instance:

You’ve been stopped because you were driving faster than the posted speed limit. You roll down your window and the cop asks the first leading question, “Do you know how fast you were going?” His purpose is to get you to commit to a number – probably a number that is higher than the lawful maximum, even if lower than you were actually traveling. He knows you were doing 72 but if you say 65 (and the speed limit is 55) he has not only obtained an admission of guilt, he can appear to be a “nice guy” by “giving you a break” – that is, citing you for 65 rather than 72. Either way, he – the system – wins.

You lose.

So, say nothing… nothing!

Well, nothing potentially incriminating, anyhow.

“I’m sure you have an opinion, officer” is an excellent response – though one sure to wipe any patina of “nice guy” clean off the cop.

Similarly, other interrogatories.

“Where are you headed tonight?”

Shrug.

“You’re not being very cooperative.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, officer.”

“How much have you had to drink tonight?”

Silence.

Followed, when pressed, by something along the lines of:

“I’m sorry, officer, but I won’t be answering any questions this evening.”

Because no good can come of it.

There are, in fact, only three things you should ever say to a cop. The first is:

“Am I being detained?”

And next:

“Am I free to go.”

Repeat.

Either the cop will formally arrest you or he will give up and permit you to leave. Worst case, you are arrested, but if the cop has done so out of anger at your refusal to “cooperate” rather than on the basis of actual evidence, you will be vindicated in the end, probably. The important thing is you have not been the star witness in your own prosecution; you have provided no testimony or other evidence that can and will be used against you later on, in court. Though we do live in a flowering police state, vestiges of due process still exist and one of these is that, in general, they (the cops, the prosecutors) have to produce some evidence of your guilt. It frustrates them when you do not help them to do so. Which brings me to the final thing – the last thing you should say to a cop:

“I do not consent to any searches.”

Never mind that you know there are no drugs, illegal weapons or any other contraband item in your car. Such contraband has been known to magically appear underneath seats. If you grant entry, you’ve given opportunity. By refusing, you force them to abide by at least some procedure – and you have formally refused consent, which could be a lifesaver later on, if they ignore you and go ahead and ransack your vehicle (or person) regardless.

It is important to be polite, calm and collected.

But it is far more important to not be servile – and to assert your rights, whatever’s left of them, anyhow.

Reprinted with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.

Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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